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Online Training and Professional Development in the Pandemic Era

By Todd Rothman, CEO of Product Prep

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One of the most interesting and challenging situations in this pandemic era is not just managing remote teams or staggered staff schedules — but how do you stay on top of professional development, compliance and other certifications?

It’s hard to believe that six months ago a manager could hold an in-person staff meeting at their store and meet with team members individually in an office to review career goals, performance and opportunities to strengthen skills. The auto industry was already complex enough between sales and finance and insurance requirements, certifications and knowledge. Fast forward to today, and we have the added layer of distance management, keeping staff engaged, motivated and, of course, up to date on skills and certifications.

Here are some important tips and considerations to think about as you adjust to the new normal of social distancing and online-everything. Just because it’s screen-based doesn’t mean it has to be less impactful or engaging.

  • Out with the old. Your old “pre-COVID” presentation isn’t going to cut it anymore. Whether you’re creating a new presentation or updating an old one, make sure you adjust the cadence so there are ample opportunities to get feedback and questions. It’s really difficult to “read the room” when you’re presenting online, so it’s up to you to set the tone for interaction. Attendees will follow your lead so kick off by asking questions, prompting informal dialogue among the group and ensure you have created a supportive environment so others are encouraged to chime in. The gold is always in the discussion!
  • Be specific. Attendees will stay focused and engaged if they know that the information they are receiving directly applies to them. Do some research ahead of time to scope out specific challenges that your attendees might be facing. Perhaps a pre-presentation survey or phone calls to extract information or enlist a volunteer for some live problem solving and coaching.
  • Quality counts. Whether in person or online, you have to have an element of showmanship and quality in your presentation so it’s not a snoozefest. It pays to have good graphics, good lighting, good sound and excellent streaming quality. We are in this all-things-online state for the foreseeable future, so invest in making your online presence a destination for discovery and knowledge.
  • Stay relevant. The market has changed and so have consumer behaviors, so your content needs to adapt accordingly. For instance, there has been a big uptick in sales of recreational vehicles (RVs, powersports, etc.) so we have created new sales training and certifications courses for this specific market. Make sure your teams are prepared and ready to meet the demand — think ahead to winter sports recreational vehicles. 

One of the auto industry’s leading trainers, Gerry Gould, has decades of experience leading education courses and even as a veteran, he said this era has been a learning curve.

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“In today’s online courses, you’re not dealing with someone who has been in the office, in meetings and socializing all day and now ready to sit down and focus for an hour or two,” he says. “It’s a totally different situation today as everyone has been sitting in front of a computer for hours already, likely juggling kids, school or home life, and has had limited socialization or engagement with others, coupled with a lot of distractions. The role of the instructor and moderator needs to be much more personalized, attentive and motivating than ever before.”

Take the time to reset, reconnect with your audience and be relatable. The opportunity for impactful coaching and training is there, beginning with you as the trainer.

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